Most of these terms are easy to understand once you familiarize yourself with them. Most knife-makers use these terms in a straightforward manner, but it may take some experimentation to determine which grind, edge, pattern or profile works best for your prepping or survival needs.
The blade grind, or how the cutting edge is formed, is the heart of the blade. The grind determines how well a blade can cut and retain its sharpness.
There are many types of blade grinds, but those detailed below are some of the most common ones.
The asymmetrical grind combines two different designs and uses two distinct bevel angles for each side of the blade. This creates a more durable edge by combining the benefits of each grind.
Some makers opt to grind different portions of the blade, like using a flat grind on the front half and a hollow grind on the rear half.
The chisel grind is a blade design originating from Asia and it resembles the grind of woodworking chisels. It features a single ground side while the opposite side is left flat.
The compound bevel, or double bevel, is a common grind found on a lot of modern knives.
It consists of one of the grinds in this list with a secondary bevel added for better durability and easier maintenance.
The convex edge is very durable and sharp, but it comes with one downside: It can be challenging to sharpen.
Both sides of the blade feature a slightly rounded or convex bevel that tapers to form the edge.
Convex grinds are used for heavy-duty chopping tools like axes and machetes because the rounded shape of the edge prevents it from binding in wood and helps to split it.
The flat-ground or "V-ground" edge is a simple and common blade style. The blade tapers at a consistent angle from the spine to the cutting edge on both sides.
Knives with flat grinds are easy to maintain and sharpen.
The edge of a hollow-ground blade has a unique concave grind, with both sides bowing inward until they meet at a thin, sharp edge.
This edge is very sharp, but it requires frequent maintenance through stropping or sharpening. This edge is common in Buck hunting knives, custom knives and straight razors.
The Scandinavian grind or Scandi grind begins below the midpoint and does not have a secondary bevel on the edge.
Get a knife with a Scandinavian grind if you need a sharp blade for bushcraft, whittling or woodworking since the high bevel will let you keep an eye on the wood grain while carving.
A blade with this particular grind requires frequent stropping to maintain sharpness. Note that using another type of sharpener will change the grind by adding a secondary bevel. (Related: Bug out survival planning: Prepping a bug-out bag in less than an hour.)
Learning about the different grinds will help you find out what you need in a blade.
If you are a hunter or trapper, you may need a hollow grind for skinning and dressing game. If you need a tool for clearing bush, get a machete with a convex grind.
After you settle on a grind for your blade, find the ideal profile for your knife.
The clip point blade was once the dominant blade style worldwide. It was originally a result of the forging process since the tip of the blade naturally curved upward due to heat and hammering.
When machine-ground blades replaced forged ones, the style remained due to familiarity. The back of the blade closest to the tip is clipped in a straight or concave fashion, hence the name.
Clip point blades are common on pocket knives and the clip is meant to safely house the blade within the handle when closed. It may come with a false edge to aid in penetration.
This profile is best for general use, camping, hunting, self-defense, skinning or woodworking.
The dagger blade was mostly meant for combat. This ancient profile is full of symbolism and has been the base design of many art knives.
Originally a scaled-down version of a double-edged sword, the dagger has two symmetrical sharpened edges. A dagger is best for stabbing since the double edge or top false edge aids in penetration.
Keep in mind that carrying a dagger is heavily restricted or prohibited in most jurisdictions.
Because of this, some makers have refined the design into what is commonly known as a spear-point blade or a bull-nose profile that keeps the symmetrical shape but with only one sharpened edge.
The drop point is one of the most commonly used blade styles, but this wasn’t always the case.
In the 1950s, Bob Loveless popularized the style by grinding the blade so that the spine has the same thickness and strength from hilt to tip.
It is one of the most practical profiles for a daily-use knife since the lowered tip provides extra control when cutting with the edge while still retaining piercing power. This versatility makes a drop point suitable for camping, hunting, self-defense, skinning, woodworking and other activities.
The gut hook is a specialized blade feature with a blunt edge and a beveled, sharpened single serration often cut in the top plane of the blade. The blunt tip was originally intended for aiding in the skinning of animals and helps prevent damage to the hide or intestines while dressing it out.
Gut hooks are commonly found on hunting knives and rescue and military knives for easily cutting seatbelts and cordage without risking injury from an exposed knife tip.
Similar to sheepsfoot and Wharncliffe blades, the hawkbill blade has a pointed tip for better penetration when used for striking and cutting.
This blade is ideal for self-defense, particularly when used correctly.
The Persian blade is usually the opposite of the gut hook, hawkbill and tanto because it curves upward with a pointed tip.
A Persian blade is ideal for filleting, but can also be found on certain combat and general-use knives.
The recurve blade is a modern design that became more popular at the turn of the millennium. The blade's "belly" bows out from the edge before the point, giving more surface area for cutting.
Recurve blades are commonly found on hunting knives, self-defense tools, skinning blades and some EDC models.
The reverse S profile has a sweeping curve that provides a larger cutting surface area than a straight edge or even a recurve.
With this profile, you get a cutting performance similar to a larger blade even if the blade length is at the legal limit in most jurisdictions.
Sheepsfoot blades were originally intended for trimming the hooves of sheep and goats. The blade has a straight edge, a straight and dull back and a rounded tip that curves to the edge.
This unique design gives you precise control when holding the knife closer to the edge. Sheepsfoot blades are ideal for rescue knives and for self-defense, skinning and woodworking.
The tanto blade is unique and easily recognizable.
It was introduced to the U.S. by custom knife maker Bob Lum.
These modern U.S. blades have a flat spine, but often have an obtuse angle at the tip. Some variations have the spine angled towards the tip to form a triangular shape.
Tanto blades are great for penetration but are less versatile than drop points because they have obtuse angles near the tip.
Tanto blades are used on everyday-carry (EDC) blades, tactical knives and some hunting knives.
Similar to the sheepsfoot, the Wharncliffe blade has a more gradual curve on the back edge. It is usually thicker than other knives of a similar size.
Wharncliffe knives were originally designed for mariners on sailing ships since it has a flat blade made for the predictable cutting action. The blade has an excellent tip for fine work.
Wharncliffe blades are usually found on box cutters. They are used for rescue, self-defense, skinning and woodworking.
When choosing a survival knife, consider what you need it for and if it meets your budget.
Consider the size of the blade and what you will be using the knife for. If you get a blade that is too big, your knife won't be suitable for dressing small game.
Opt for a fixed-blade knife because it is usually more reliable than a folding knife. Keep in mind that all designs have their own strengths and weaknesses.
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